Rating: 4/5 – A New Horror/Humor Comic Version of Hell
The comic Rebel Angels is as if 15th century’s Hieronymus Bosch came back to life today to do a horror/humor comic strip. Rebel Angels is a digital first comic from Canadian artist James Turner. The goal of digital first is to have a print trade paperback after the release of the digital issues. The issues are collected from Turner’s web comic called Hell Lost. That name is a new take on the epic poem Paradise Lost by the 17th century writer John Milton.
The comic follows the life of a demon named Balthazar. Balthazar and the rest of the demons in hell do all the same things many people do here every day. The go to war, they lie, cheat, and feel alienation. There’s a huge cast of characters and the story bounces around from one group to the next. Since it skips back and forth, the story works better as a comic strip or web comic than a linear story in a graphic novel. You can read the story for face value, as I did, or you can read a lot into the background. You would have to have prior knowledge of Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno to understand the bigger picture. This makes for a bit of frustrating reading experience for the uninformed.
James Turner’s art is really what kept swiping through this digital comic. The inspiration may be Hieronymus Bosch but it’s also heavily influenced by the 19th century master illustrator Gustave Dore. I can’t help but notice a strong influence by the late great horror artist Edward Gorey. There’s also Charles Schulz’s Peanuts in they way that the comic has a quick comic timing and the layout on the page. Although Turner has an art style that’s entirely his own. Turner is most well known for his comic book about a librarian adventurer titled Rex Libris. Rex was also published in thirteen issues by SLG from 2005 to 2008. The hellish landscapes in Rebel Angels are worth your time alone. There are a ton of little details that you really have to examine closely to see. Look for the small graffiti on walls throughout as it will give you a chuckle. Turner has a flat 2-D style like a traditional print but it really goes deep into the scenery.
Rebel Angels is recommend as it’s a uniquely crafted comic with a lot of laughs. Despite some readability issues due to the story pacing I suggest you give it a try. Although it’s been compared to the Disney/Pixar movie Monsters University, this isn’t a comic for small children. There’s swearing a plenty and beheading galore. This is a picture of hell after all. The 70-page digital comic is scheduled to be released by the end of August on Comixology, but is available as a free downloadable PDF from SLG right now at the link provided above.
Ultimately, I’d like to see the story go to print so I’ll be following the series.
Reviewed by: Ian Gowan – Ian@comicspectrum.com
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